An unnamed bureaucrat is sent from the Technology Transfer Department to the colonized planet Miranda. Miranda is a technologically restricted planet, and the bureaucrat’s boss, Korda, fears that the Mirandan wizard Gregorian has stolen some proscribed technology. Miranda, at the time of the bureaucrat’s arrival, faces the once-in-two-centuries Jubilee Tides, when vast portions of the planet are drowned. Only the life-forms adapted to live under water survive. As the towns gear up for evacuation, the bureaucrat searches for Gregorian in an ever-shifting reality. He is aided by his nanotechnological briefcase and robotic surrogates.
The bureaucrat and Chu, his liaison officer, land in Tidewater, Gregorian’s boyhood home and center for a smuggling ring in haunt artifacts. Haunts were the original intelligent life-form on Miranda, but all of them were killed by accident in a previous Jubilee Tide. The Mirandans still suffer guilt, remorse, and fascination for these beings, who knew how to change form to live in Ocean when the world was drowned.
The bureaucrat interviews Gregorian’s mother and learns that his was a virgin birth. When young, she met a Department technocrat and agreed to become pregnant with his cloned embryo. The technocrat housed her in Ararat, now a lost city, to await the birth. She escaped, returned to Tidewater, and reared Gregorian. The bureaucrat learns that Gregorian ran away from home to study wizardry with Madame...
(The entire section is 480 words.)